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09PHNOMPENH520 2009-07-27 09:23:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Phnom Penh
Cable title:  

Ambassador Raises Concerns on TIP and Security with Preah

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DE RUEHPF #0520/01 2080923
R 270923Z JUL 09
					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000520 



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Ambassador Raises Concerns on TIP and Security with Preah
Sihanouk Governor


1. (SBU) Summary. Ambassador Rodley called on Preah Sihanouk
provincial Governor Sbong Sarath July 21 to discuss cooperation in
combating trafficking in persons and pedophilia in the province.
She raised concerns about weak prosecution of sex offenders in the
provincial courts and the need to focus local prevention efforts on
vulnerable families. The provincial administration appears to lack
an adequate response to address the challenge of rising crime in the
province, despite the threat to its lucrative tourism industry. End

Background on Preah Sihanouk Province


2. (U) Preah Sihanouk province was elevated from a municipality
earlier this year, and is composed of four districts. According to
the Governor, the province comprises 2,561 square kilometers;
forests and mountains make up two thirds of the land, and
agriculture land is less than 50 percent of the total area. A
population of 182,648 people lives in the province, 108,558 of whom
are over 18 years of age. He reported that 50.8 percent of the
population work in agriculture, 37.9 work in the service sector, and
11.3 percent are employed in industry.

Prosecuting Sex Offenders and Combating TIP


3. (SBU) The Ambassador applauded police efforts to combat
trafficking in persons and arrest sex offenders in the province.
She complimented the high level of cooperation between local police
and U.S. law enforcement authorities and local NGOs to identify and
arrest sex offenders. (Note: Sihanoukville has developed a
reputation as an attractive destination for western sexual predators
in recent years and several high-profile sex offenders have been
arrested in the area. End Note.) However, the Ambassador commented
that the local judicial system has been a weak link in prosecuting
offenders and urged the Governor to engage his colleagues about this
concern. She also expressed her dismay at the decision to release a
convicted sex offender from prison for a day to attend to his
business interests in the area, describing it as a "stain on
Cambodia's honor" and giving the impression that the government is
not as serious about these types of crime as it should be.

4. (SBU) Having met the previous day with organizations working to
protect children from exploitation, the Ambassador raised her
concerns about alarming reports that some parents exploit their own
children, selling them to pedophiles, due to poverty and drug and
alcohol abuse. She urged the Governor to develop a prevention
strategy which works with parents to avoid the abuse of children.

5. (SBU) The Deputy Commissioner of the Provincial Police also
attended the meeting and provided the Ambassador with an overview of
the TIP situation in the province. He explained that trafficking in
persons in the province is linked to sexual exploitation, not labor,
and trafficking victims are destined for brothels, karaoke parlors,
and massage parlors. Local residents are also trafficked to
Thailand for sexual exploitation, according to the Deputy
Commissioner. He detailed recent efforts to combat TIP, reporting
the number of suspects arrested on TIP, prostitution, indecent acts,
and pornography charges. (Comment: The inclusion of prostitution
and pornography offenses in the Deputy Commissioner's "TIP"
statistics illustrates the continued confusion among legal and law
enforcement authorities about "trafficking-related" offenses under
the RGC's anti-trafficking law. End Comment.) He also shared with
the Ambassador a leaflet with a TIP hotline to report suspected
cases which the police developed and provide to area businesses,
such as hotels, guesthouses, and karaoke parlors in an effort to
combat the crime.

Rising Crime Threatens Tourism Sector


6. (SBU) The Ambassador raised concerns regarding security in the
province, particularly the increase in crime affecting tourists and
resident foreigners. She encouraged the Governor to take urgent
action to address the growing problem. She noted that the tourism
sector is heavily dependent on security and stressed that mid-range
tourists would be discouraged from visiting if the area develops a
reputation for being unsafe.

7. (SBU) In response, the Governor stated that he was very concerned
about providing security for tourists in Sihanoukville and that he
plans to improve security in tourist areas. However, he did not
elaborate on his administration's strategy to accomplish this goal.
Instead, he explained that improving security is a challenge given
the limited number of police available to patrol a large area, and
conceded that there are gaps in their coverage where crime can
occur. Rather than offer a strategy for preventing crime, he

PHNOM PENH 00000520 002 OF 002

complained to the Ambassador that offenders commit crimes between 6
and 7 p.m. to take advantage of the time when police "have their
rest and eat dinner." He blamed street children and drug addicts
for bag snatching, targeting tourists. He held tourists responsible
in part for not taking greater precautions for their own safety. He
mentioned that in an effort to protect tourists from themselves,
foreigners (who are in general inexperienced and accident-prone on
motorbikes) are not permitted to rent or ride motorbikes by
themselves. (Note: Enforcement of this policy appears to be weak,
as Econoff noted that motorbikes are readily available for rent to
foreigners in the area. End Note.)

Development Priorities for the Province


8. (SBU) The Governor highlighted his administration's efforts to
improve health care, education, and infrastructure throughout the
province. He explained that expansion of health care centers to the
local/commune level have reportedly resulted in an eighty percent
drop in illnesses (unspecified) in the province. However, he
conceded that they still need to strengthen the health sector
throughout the province. The Governor reported that the province
has five high schools, 15 junior high schools, and a primary school
in each commune, and provides training at the community level to
reduce illiteracy. New road projects are improving linkages between
villages, and larger roads have been upgraded with street light
installations and drainage systems. Recognizing the importance of
the province's beaches to the tourism sector, the Governor told the
Ambassador that his administration plans to improve tourist services
by providing parking spaces and areas for sitting near the seaside.

9. (SBU) In closing, the Governor expressed his appreciation for the
Ambassador's visit to his province and for the recent visits of U.S.
Navy ships. The Ambassador highlighted these ship visits as a
symbol of the strengthening U.S.-Cambodia relationship. The
Governor pledged continued efforts to combat TIP and reduce crime in
the province. He was also grateful to the U.S. government for its
openness in allowing foreigners to go to the U.S. to study,
informing the Ambassador that his two children are currently
students in the U.S.